December 30, 2012

2012: Year of the Craft

2012 was something, wasn't it? I split the blogs into two pages, the original one here reverted back to its intended purpose- quilting and recipes. My new blog became all about wargaming and miniatures hobbying. It's a change I was hesitant to make at first, but certainly was for the best.

If you recall, at the end of 2011 I set some goals for myself for the upcoming year. Let's assess how well I did in meeting them:
  • Blogging Consistently: I definitely think I  kept up a good and consistent pace this year. Now to keep it going for 2013.
  • Finishing Dwarfs: Well, since I split the blog into two this year, this got covered over there, but no, I did not entirely finish them.
  • Finish UFOs: I actually did finish most of my Un-Finished Objects that I had laying around.
  • No new projects: Hahahahahaha. That didn't happen.
  • More recipes, more photos: I actually had a ton of recipes over the last year and they all had photos to go with them. I even added photos to recipes that lacked them.
  • Poor Etsy No More: I started up the shop again, added several new items, and had a few more sales. Over all, a good start but still needs improvement.
I would say I scored a 4 out of 6 goals. I gave myself half credit for the Dwarfs (since 80% of them are painted) and half credit for the Etsy page improvements. All in all, that's not too bad. I really flubbed the dog on not starting new projects until I finished all my old ones. But, honestly, that's to be expected.

With those goals in mind, I came up with some things I'd like to accomplish in the coming year. Aside from just keeping on with that I've been doing, I've added a few things.

2013 Goals:
  • I'd like to work on expanding my quilting and sewing posts. My primary purpose in starting this blog was to catalog my sewing adventures, but 2012 was very recipe heavy. I want to post more evenly in the future.
  • More for Etsy: I added some new items recently, but I need to work on some more projects to add to my shop.
  • Mini Quilts: making a set for the whole year, ones for my personal use and ones to turn into patterns for the Etsy page.
  • Keep my UFOs to a minimum: I don't have that many UFOs right now, and I want to try and make sure that I only have a few (5 or less) projects going at one time. Right now I have 3 projects, so I'm doing well.
This seems like a very manageable set of goals. What hurdles are you setting for yourself in the new year?

December 28, 2012

Butterfly Applique Wall Hanging

I am SO glad I can finally share some of the holiday gifts I made over the last two months. You wouldn't know it from the blog posts, bus since November I've really been doing a ton of sewing. I just couldn't share anything for fear of recipients seeing their gifts early. But they've all been given now, so I am free to post about all of them!

First up is the wall hanging I made for my mother in law. She really likes butterflies, so I wanted to make her something that incorporated butterfly fabric. But, I had a hard time finding any butterfly fabrics that I thought would appeal to her (there are lots of cute options for babies, though).

Eventually I settled on making butterfly appliques. The appliques I used came from Lollychops, which has a printout of them available for free. There are a few different styles, and if you wanted to get really clever you could easily resize them on your printer to make them larger/smaller to suit your needs.

It took me a little longer to do this than I thought, because it was what I was working on when it became time to service my machine. It started knocking, so that was my queue to turn it over to the serviceman. It came back a few days later than I expected it to, but it was good as new so I can't complain.

This butterfly fabric was too fun to pass up, so I used it for the backing of the quilt. We didn't get to see her this year for Christmas (it's too far to travel to see both our families at the holidays, and this year was my family's turn) but I mailed it to her instead. She got it just in time for Christmas, and didn't even cheat by opening it early.

I'm happy to report she loved it and even had a space to hang it on the wall. It ended up being a little larger than I had set out to make it, and I was hoping she'd be able to find a place for it. She was kind enough to send me a photo of it hanging in her house.

December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas from LTL!

May your holiday be filled will good company, great food, and maybe a few warming libations to keep the weather away.

Be Jolly!
  Hubs, Piper, and I have already arrived at our holiday destination, but I hope you all have safe travels.  Happy Holidays to you all!

December 20, 2012

Spent Grain Dog Treats

My dad has really gotten into brewing his own beer since the summer, and after each batch, he's left with a big pile of spent grains. He tossed them the first few times, but later learned you can save the grains and use them to make things like bread... and dog treats!

We have no shortage of dogs barking around in the family, so I took what he had recently and turned them into dog treats! Piper, my mischievous hound, and Dante, my parent's dog, both really love the first batch my dad made. I took some tips from him when he made them and improved on the recipe to make it possible to use cookie cutters on them- bone shaped cookie cutters!

Baking these was essentially a waking nightmare for Piper, or so she'd have you believe. She knew what they were, smelled them for over 4 hours, and could see them cooling on the counter. I should go to jail for putting her through this kind of extensive torture.

Beer Grain Dog Treats
makes approximately 30 treats, depending on the size of your cutter

What You'll Need:
2 1/2 cups (approx) of spent beer grains that have not been mixed with hops*
1 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup flour (all purpose or whole wheat)
1 egg

The Process:
Mix all ingredients together well. I used a wooden spoon at first and then finished it off by mixing with my hands. If it's still really sticky, add a little more flour. If it's too dry, add a little bit more peanut butter. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour. Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Roll out dough to about 1/4" thick and cut out desired shapes until all the dough is used.

Place cut biscuits onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 2 1/2 hours, turning them after 90 minutes, until they're really well dried out. Using hot pads, break one in half to make sure they're dried all the way through. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

*Hops are toxic to dogs, do never use grains have been mixed with hops.

I had three different kinds of grains on hand, so I made quite a few of these (almost 150), but they're getting spread around between four spoiled dogs. Poor Piper has been stalking the kitchen all evening. Too bad she has to wait until Christmas for these.

December 18, 2012

Colombian Beef with Cane Sugar Syrup

For the inaugural Supermarket Surprise! segment, I purchased an interesting pancake of compressed cane sugar called panela. I figured I couldn't go wrong with something that was essentially a brick of sugar.

I spent a little time searching around the internet for what to do with it. Almost everything I found at first was called Aqua de Panela, essentially a drink made from dissolving the sugar in water. That felt like cheating, since it wasn't much of a recipe. The search continued.

Eventually, I found a Colombian beef roast recipe called Muchacho con Melao de Panela, from My Colombian Recipes. The roast is rubbed in spices and vinegar and left to marinade for two days prior to cooking then you pour a sugar syrup over it for serving. I made a few changes, the first being that I cooked it in the crock pot.

I can best describe panela as "rich brown sugar". It has a similar color, smell, and texture to brown sugar but the taste is somewhat richer. The panela syrup smelled so delicious while it was cooking. I made more than we needed for the roast, but I brought the remainder to a holiday party and we used it over ham. It was also very delicious.

I accidentally forgot to take a photo until after we had started eating.
Colombian Beef with Cane Sugar Syrup
makes one roast, adapted from My Colombian Recipes

What You'll Need:
3 pounds rump roast
3 Tbs white vinegar
1 Tbs cumin
1 small onion, finely chopped
6 minced garlic cloves
1 Tbs dry mustard
4 diced scallions
1 Tbs thyme
1 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
2 cups of water
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup melao de panela
     8 oz panela
     2 cups water
     1 tsp cinnamon
     1/2 tsp cloves

The Process:
   Two days ahead of time, mix the white vinegar, ground cumin, mustard, onion, scallions, thyme, salt, and pepper. Rub the mixture over the beef. Place the roast in a dish, cover, and let rest for 2 days in the fridge.
   On the day you want to make it, heat a little olive oil in a skillet and brown the roast on all sides. Place the roast in your crock pot. Add the water and bay leaves. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours until internal temp reaches 160 degrees.
   Anytime before the roast is finished, make the melao de panela. Mix all the ingredients in a small sauce pan and heat over medium heat for 30 minutes until well thickened. Make sure to stir it occasionally.
   Once the beef is fully cooked, pull out of the crock and let rest, tented with aluminum foil, for 15 minutes prior to carving. Spoon some of the syrup over each slice and enjoy!

December 13, 2012

Supermarket Surprise!

Lately, I've noticed that I eat a lot of the same things, over and over again. It's nice to have favorites, but variety is the spice of life! While I usually take the opportunity to try something new when the chance arises (like when I ate alligator in New Orleans), my kitchen isn't a place where that often happens.

There IS such a thing as too much mac and cheese.
Making the same things is easy (especially when you know the recipe by heart) but it gets boring. No matter how delicious something is, after the fifth or sixth time you no longer look forward to it. In the spirit of livening up my cooking, I've decided to start a new segment called Supermarket Surprise!

I'm fortunate to live near a grocery store that has a great selection of ethnic and Kosher foods, but I hardly ever venture into those aisles. I make a list of what I need and just go to the aisles where list items reside. Very little adventuring involved. But no more! There is a fantastic wealth of food stuffs in those aisles, and I haven't heard of most of them.

So once a month, I will be preparing a dish made with a "surprise" ingredient. Here's where the surprise comes in. I'll look for something that I haven't heard of before and I'll buy it, whether or not I have any idea of how to use it or prepare it. Then I'll go home, research it a little bit, try a recipe I found using that ingredient, and tell you about it.

Sounds easy enough, right? I already bought my first item. It's something a littler "safer" than I could have otherwise chosen, but I didn't want to throw myself into the deep end of new foods right away. I'm making it in a few days, so look for the follow up with my first Supermarket Surprise!

December 5, 2012

Condensed Cream of Turkey

Have you ever wondered what you should do with all the turkey pan drippings that's left over after you've made gravy? Wonder no more! I have an excellent use for them: cream of turkey soup.

The original recipe, for cream of chicken, came from Tammy's Kitchen. I adapted it to make some cream of turkey that I'll use soon when I make some turkey pot pie with all that leftover turkey we (still) have. The biggest change I made was doubling the recipe. I had a LOT of turkey broth, so I actually made 4x as much as the original recipe.

I ended up with 7 mason jars worth of condensed soup. It worked out very well, actually. Each jar is 2 cups when filled all the way, but since I was planning to freeze them, I left a little wiggle room in there.

Condensed Cream of Turkey
makes a little over 6 cups 

What You'll Need:
3 cups turkey broth*
2 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp rosemary
1 small minced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt (more or less as you prefer)
1/2 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp paprika
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cup flour 
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